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NCE Smart Booster (SB3) Review - UPDATE

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NCE Smart Booster (SB3) Review - UPDATE
Posted by tstage on Thursday, November 30, 2006 11:02 AM

DISCLAIMER: Having received my NCE Smart Booster in the mail only yesterday, I really haven't had a chance to take it through it's paces yet.  (And, since my layout is on the smallish size, I'm not entirely sure that I'll really be able to do that for a while.)  However, the set up and the discussion of the Smart Booster's new features and how they enhance the capabilities of the NCE Power Cab should still be of interest and benefit to folks anyhow.


 
NCE Smart Booster (SB3) Review

Click picture(s) to enlarge

Contents: (L to R)

  • (1) Digitrax PS315 3-amp/15VAC wall transformer (purchased separately)
  • (1) 4-port power/track connector (black)
  • (1) 3-port Control Bus connector (green)
  • (1) NCE Smart Booster

Contents: (Not pictured)

  • (1) 6-page NCE Smart Booster manual - containing information/explanations on the following sections:
  •  
    • Power Supply
    • Short Circuit protection (with diagram)
    • Connecting extra boosters
    • Layout wiring (with diagrams)
    • Specifications
    • Available connections
    • Indicator lights
    • System limits of SB3 with Power Cab
    • Resetting (rebooting) the System
    • Returning the system to original factory settings
    • Changes from Power Cab V. 1.10
    • Advanced Layout Wiring (diagram)
    • Accessory equipment available
    • CP6 Hook UP with an SB3 system (diagram)

Initial thoughts and impressions

I purchased and received both my NCE Smart Booster (SB3) and Digitrax PS315 3-amp – 15VAC wall transformer from Empire Northern Models.  Everything was well packed and protected.

As mentioned above, the SB3 comes with its own 6-page manual.  I thought NCE did a very good job of explaining how to set up and use your SB3.  I also thought the manual was straightforward and easy to understand – especially with a good use of diagrams for explaining the proper wiring of the unit to the layout.  One nice bonus is a diagram for showing you how to easily hook up an automotive tail light to your SB3 to use as an external short circuit protection device.

After opening up each of the boxes, the first thing that jumped out at me was the physical size of the 3-amp wall transformer.  At 3-1/4”H x 2-1/2”W x 2-1/8”D, this "wall wart" was almost as large as the SB3 itself - and a lot heavier!

The second thing that I quickly noticed was the introduction of additional ventilation holes on the enclosure of the SB3: (3) at the top and (4) on one side – which weren’t in any of the original photos put out by NCE.

Even with the cooling vents in the top rear of the SB3 enclosure, I’m guessing that the SB3 may have experienced some overheating problems so NCE decided to add the holes afterward.  (Note the slight unevenness of the hole alignment in the picture below.)

As you will also note from the picture, there is a fairly good size heat sink that is visible from both the top and side ventilation holes.

Setting things up

SB3 Connections

The SB3 comes with 3 connections:

  •  Rear (2) – A 4-port connector (black) for connecting the 2 wires of the 3-amp wall transformer (POWER) and the 2 wires to each track (TRACK), and a 3-port connector (green) for attaching additional DB3 3-amp boosters to the SB3.

  • Front (3) – Cab bus “RJ” connectors for connecting the SB3 to the UTP (universal throttle port) panels.

The rear 3- and 4-port connectors must be plugged into the internal circuit board connector of the SB3, which is accessible through a small slot in the back of the SB3 enclosure.  Each connector can be easily connected and disconnected from the internal circuit board connectors.  The front three RJ-12 connectors are mounted flush to the SB3 enclosure and require no additional setup.

3-amp transformer connection

The Digitrax PS315 3-amp wall transformer (purchased separately) came with a connector at one end.  Since the SB3 doesn't utilize that connector, I had to remove it and deinsulate each wire 5/16” in order to connect the transformer wires to the left 2 power ports of the SB3.  (The set screws in the top of each connector port make connecting and disconnecting the wires very easy.)

Firing them up together

When the SB3 is turned on, there are two indicator lights that light up.  The left indicator light (red LED) indicates that DC power is on.  The right indicator light (red/green/yellow LED) indicates that track power is on.

Getting nit-picky

My next comment is a personal preference, so please take it with a grain of salt.  Having done precision machining on a number of enclosures at my job, I was a bit disappointed with how the rear of the SB3 enclosure looked.

 

There is at least a ¼” gap on either side of the black 4-port connector, where the two LED indicator lights can be seen coming off the circuit board.  Granted, you won’t really be looking at it all that much.  Still, I guess I expected more of a “finished” look to it.  In the long run, it really won’t affect the operation of the SB3, and it probably provides an additional ventilation opening to help keep the SB3 cooler.

Wiring the SB3 to the layout

I did have to do some very minor rewiring in order to hook up the SB3 to the layout.  Because the SB3 can now be plugged into a UTP (universal throttle port), there is no longer a need for the PCP (Power Cab port) panel.* (See CORRECTION below)


NOTE: To all non-NCE users:

The Power Cab is required to be connected to the left (powered) front RJ-12 connector of the PCP panel (pictured below) in order to operate.  Since the Power Cab is the command station, booster, and throttle rolled up into one, if you disconnect the Power Cab from the panel, the whole layout shuts down.  The track wiring is also connected to the back of the PCP board, as pictured below.
 
Top view of PCP panel board

With the PCP panel no longer needed to exclusively power the Power Cab, the track wires are connected to the right 2 ports of the black 4-port connector, on the back of the SB3.  The 4-conductor flat cable to power the UTP panels is connected to any of the three Cab bus “RJ” connectors on the front of the SB3. 


*CORRECTION: I just discovered this evening that the PCP panel IS still needed in order to use the Power Cab in Program mode.  When the Power Cab is powered with the SB3, the USE PROGRAM TRK screen option mode is NOT available.  (It doesn't even display.)  Only when using the Power Cab alone with the PCP panel is the USE PROGRAM TRK screen option mode available or displayed.

I could not actually find this mentioned anywhere in the SB3 manual.  There was, however, a wiring diagram on pg. 3 (pictured below) that did "imply" it.

I think this bit of information was important enough that it warranted it being more clearly stated in the manual.  My initial thought was to "decommission" (unpower) the PCP panel and just use it as a UTP panel.  After I discovered my misconception, I had to go back and repower the PCP panel, then move the SB3 wires to another Atlas slide switch.  (Not a big job; just a minor inconvenience.)


Utilizing the Smart Booster

With the SB3 now hooked up to the layout and powered to the UTP panel, three four six seven things have happened to the Power Cab:

  1. It has increased its total maximum output from 1.7 amps to 3 amps.
  2. Its OS has been upgraded from V.1.1 to V.1.28.
  3. The number of accessible functions has increased from 13 (F0-F12) to 29 (F0-F28).  (Obviously, this is entirely contingent on the total number of functions of a given decoder.)
  4. Function refresh has been added. (Points 3 & 4 are discussed in greater detail below under the heading, The winds of change.)
  5. It now has the capacity to run locomotives in both "Normal" AND "Yard" modes.  Before the advent of the SB3, Yard mode was only accessible on the Pro Cab or the CAB-04p (potentiometer) throttles.  In Yard mode, the rotation direction of the thumbwheel or knob determines the direction of the locomotive.  (No direction button needs to be pushed.)  On the Pro Cab, pushing the thumbwheel upward causes the locomotive to go forward.  Pulling the thumbwheel downward causes the locomotive to go backward.  (Direction and speed steps are visible on the LCD screen of the Power Cab.)  Likewise, rotating the knob CW on the CAB-04p throttle causes the locomotive to go forward; CCW, backward.  This is a very handy and convenient feature to have - especially if you are using your locomotive for yard switching; requiring you to perform a lot of back and forth movements.
  6. It has become "more independent" - i.e. The Power Cab can now be connected to and disconnected from any "SB3-powered" UTP panel and function as a true “walk around” throttle.  Even though my PCP panel is no longer used to power the Power Cab, I should still be able to use it as a UTP panel by purchasing another 4-conductor RJ-12 cable and connecting it to the back of the UTP panel (on the opposite side of the layout) that is powered by the SB3.  (NCE supplies an RJ-12 connector on the back of their PCP and UTP panel boards so that the panels can be easily “daisy-chained” to one another in order to accomplish this.)  Therefore, any UTP panel that is daisy-chained to the SB3-powered UTP panel becomes a usuable connection port for the Power Cab.  And, in conjunction with point 6...
  7. It has become "less significant" - i.e. The Power Cab is no longer a required item in order to operate your layout.  (That's right!  You read that last statement correctly.)  You do NOT have to even use a Power Cab with the SB3 in order to operate trains.  You can use either a NCE Pro Cab or an NCE throttle (like an CAB-04p) to start, stop, change directions and operate CVs (i.e. configuration variables).  However, the Power Cab will still be required to perform any address or CV programming to your locomotives.

Start up

After plugging the Power Cab into a panel connector, I immediately noticed two things:

  1. The initialization or boot up time for the Power Cab to become functional is almost immediate – i.e. ~1 sec vs. 5-7 seconds when run without the SB3.
  2. The first time the Power Cab is plugged in after the SB3 has been turned on, the LCD briefly displays that the Power Cab is being powered by the SB3 by replacing the fast-clock time (in the upper right hand corner of the LCD) with the word “BOOSTER” (pictured below).

 

After 4-5 seconds, the fast clock is displayed once again.  If you unplug and reconnect the Power Cab to the UTP a 2nd time, “BOOSTER” will not display again and the fast clock will continue to elapse time.

Features

  • Short circuit protection – The SB3 comes with internal short circuit protection that will shut down track power in the event of a short.  SB3 is design to “re-energize” the track every 2-3 seconds, until the short is cleared.  I tested the feature by lay an X-acto knife handle across both track rails.  The SB3 manual states that this is “not intended to protect the booster from long term short circuits” and they strongly recommend an external short circuit protection device for that purpose.
  • The SB3 Control bus connector (green) has two left terminals that are a low current copy of the track power output and a right hand terminal that is used for ground.  The Cab bus connector is used for connecting additional NCE DB3 3-amp boosters to the SB3.  This will come in handy for future expansion.  And, the DB3 booster can also be used with other DCC systems, as well, and is a fairly inexpensive way of adding power blocks to your layout.

The winds of change

As mentioned earlier, there is a handy 6-page manual that comes with the Smart Booster.  (You can also download it from the NCE web site)

The manual states on pg. 4 (under the heading Changes from Power Cab V. 1.10:) that there has been two significant changes made to the Power Cab, when used in conjunction with the SB3:

  1. Control of functions F13-F28 has been added.
  2. Function refresh has been added to help keep the light and sound functions working on locomotives that don’t remember the state of their functions on dirty track.

Functions: Programming the OPTION key

In order to have access to these additional functions, the OPTION key has to be programmed to a value of “122”.  To accomplish this, you must go into the Power Cab’s internal setup program.  After a little bit of searching in the Power Cab manual, I was able to locate on p. 18 the steps on how to do this:

  1. Turn Smart booster on
  2. Unplug the Power Cab from the panel
  3. Reconnect the Power Cab to the panel, at the same time holding down the SELECT LOCO button.  (At this point, you have now entered the Power Cab’s internal setup program.)
  4. Press ENTER till you get to PROG OPTION KEY
  5. Change OPTION key value to “122”
  6. Press PROG/ESC to return to normal display

It took me all of 30 seconds to complete the above programming.  Very straightforward on the Power Cab.

Viewing new functions 

Now that the OPTION key is programmed to the value of “122”, the additional functions can be accessed:

  •  Pressing the OPTION key once gives you the following LCD display:

To access F13, all you have to do is press “3”.  (In this mode 10 is automatically added to the number you press.)  To access F17, press “7”, and so on.

  • Pressing the OPTION key a second time gives you access to F20-F28.  (In this mode, 20 is automatically added to the number you press.)

  • Pressing OPTION a third time toggles you back to F10-F19.
  • Press PROG/ESC at any time to abort the operation.

Viewing Function status

You can now also view the status of F0-F28 on one screen by simply pressing the EXPN key:

  • The top line gives you the status F1-F14; the bottom line, F15-F28.  The following screen states that F1, F2, and F3 are all ON.  A number means the function is ON; a dash means the function is OFF.

  • Press EXPN again to return the LCD screen to the normal display.

The one down side to this is that functions greater than 9 will be displayed with only one number*, so that you will need to know the orientation of a number to determine whether it is single or double digit.  For instance: F4, F14, and F24 would be displayed in the following matter: 

F: - - - 4 - - - - - - - - - 4

F: - - - - - - - - - 4 - - - - 


*UPDATE: The exceptions are F10 and F20, which are displayed as 10 and 20.  (See example.)


Having all of them displayed makes it easier.  But, how easy or quickly is it going to be to remember when only one or two of them are displayed?  (“Oh, no…Wait!  Okay...is that F14...or F24?”)  I don’t know.  Maybe it won’t turn out to be as confusing as I anticipate it might. 

Function Refresh

As stated earlier, function refresh is for helping to keep the lights and sound functions working on locomotives that don’t remember the state of their functions on dirty track.  According to pg. 4 of the SB3 manual, this is enabled through the SET_CMD_STA menu.  When function refresh is enabled, functions F0-F12 are refreshed “about once a second”.

The SB3 manual also states that F13-F28 doesn’t need to be refreshed “because decoders remember the function states for F13 and higher”.  Like programming the OPTION key, enabling the function refresh feature took all of 30 seconds to accomplish.

Conclusion

Well, that about covers my NCE Smart Booster review.  Except for the addition of the walk around feature (very cool! Thumbs Up), I’m not entirely sure how much the changes or the increase of power is going to be beneficial to me initially.  However, if and when my layout expands and/or I decide to wire my layout up “legitimately” and divide it up into power districts using the NCE CP6 module, I think my new Smart Booster will definitely begin to show its worth.

Initial overall rating and satisifaction: B+


Other NCE reviews:

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Posted by jbloch on Thursday, November 30, 2006 11:26 AM

Tom:

Nice review, even for those of us who don't have a system yet.  Also enjoyed your prior detailed review of the Power Cab.  My guess is that if you mess around with the function numbers often enough, that you'll get used to where they are on the display and won't get confused by the fact that only one digit displays for two digit numbers.

Jim

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Posted by simon1966 on Thursday, November 30, 2006 2:04 PM

Tom, a very nice review, balanced and considered as ususal. 

 More out of idle curiosity than anything else, but I have a couple of questions.

 Tom, I added a 5 amp booster to my Digitrax Zephyr.  This allowed me to create 2 power districts on my layout, one 2.5amp district from the Zep and a second 5 A district from the booster.  These had to be gapped and handled properly to avoid shorts.  In adding the 3 Amp booster to the PowerCab there is no mention of how you create the 2 power disricts for the original 1.7A booster from  the Powercab and then the 3A distric t for the Smart booster?  Does the Smartbooster bring you up to 3 A total, or is it 3 A in addition to the original 1.7A?

The manual for the Smart Booster makes it clear that it does not support any type of program track.  The suggestion is that the Powercab PCP panel be used separately to accomodate a program track.  I presume that this would mean the connection of the PowerCab throttle to the PCP for the purpose of programing.  The diagrams do not show any connection between the PCP and the Smart booster.  Can you run trains on your main using the Smart booster, while you are programming on the program track with the PowerCab throttle?  I guess that you probably can, especially if you have another throttle plugged in.  It looks to me as if you could run the system with just a Smart Booster and an inexpensive cab like the Cab04? 

 

 

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, November 30, 2006 2:41 PM
 simon1966 wrote:

Tom, a very nice review, balanced and considered as ususal. 

More out of idle curiosity than anything else, but I have a couple of questions.

Tom, I added a 5 amp booster to my Digitrax Zephyr.  This allowed me to create 2 power districts on my layout, one 2.5amp district from the Zep and a second 5 A district from the booster.  These had to be gapped and handled properly to avoid shorts.  In adding the 3 Amp booster to the PowerCab there is no mention of how you create the 2 power disricts for the original 1.7A booster from  the Powercab and then the 3A distric t for the Smart booster?  Does the Smartbooster bring you up to 3 A total, or is it 3 A in addition to the original 1.7A?

Simon,

I should have mentioned that in the review. [done]  The Smart Booster only brings the total output of the Power Cab up to 3 amps.  It does NOT add the two amperages(?) together.  (Would the correct use of the term be amperes or amperages?)

The manual for the Smart Booster makes it clear that it does not support any type of program track.  The suggestion is that the Powercab PCP panel be used separately to accomodate a program track.  I presume that this would mean the connection of the PowerCab throttle to the PCP for the purpose of programing.  The diagrams do not show any connection between the PCP and the Smart booster.  Can you run trains on your main using the Smart booster, while you are programming on the program track with the PowerCab throttle?  I guess that you probably can, especially if you have another throttle plugged in.  It looks to me as if you could run the system with just a Smart Booster and an inexpensive cab like the Cab04?

It is true that the Power Cab does NOT come with separate terminals for programming.  However, the Power Cab you can program in both programming and OPS modes.

Originally, I had track power from the Power Cab going to an Atlas "slide" connector to supply power to my mainline and programming track.  The slide switch on the far left was for powering the mainline.  The slide switch on the far right was for powerinig my isolated programming track.  (The middle one stayed unused.)  Whenever I wanted to program a locomotive on the programming track, I turned the far left slide switch to the OFF position (down) and the far right slide switch to the ON position (up).  It worked just fine for me that way.

Now I have the 3A wall transformer track terminals wired to the Atlas connector, which in turn is powering the mainline.  I haven't tried to use the programming track yet, but I don't anticipate any problems or changes from the old way of programming.  Even with the addition of the Smart Booster, the Power Cab still remains the command station.

You can operate trains (i.e. leave them running) on the mainline while your programmingBut, without the separate programming terminals (like you have on the Zephyr), you are not able to change operations while you program.  It's either one or the other.

CORRECTION: You can NOT operate trains on the mainline while using the programming track with the Power Cab.

Simon,

After Frank (Driline) posted the link for the NCE Auto Switch (see below), I realized (Doh!) that I made an error in my response to your question. Dunce [D)]

Even with my setup, I still must shut down power to the mainline in order to use the programming track.  Technically, I could leave the mainline power on with my set up.  But then I run the risk of inadvertently programming all the other locomotives on my mainline.

Simon, it looks like I get the idiot award this time. Laugh [(-D]

Although I haven't tried it yet, you are supposed to be able to operate locomotives with just the Smart Booster and an extra throttle.  (Another bit of information that I should add to the review [done].)  I tried this last night and it worked flawlessly.

Thanks, Simon. Smile [:)] It's inquiries like yours that helps me see what things I forgot to include.

Tom

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Posted by simon1966 on Thursday, November 30, 2006 6:38 PM

Tom, thanks for putting the Done notes in your reply.  You could have just edited the review and made me look like an idiotDunce [D)]

Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site http://www.picturetrail.com/simontrains and our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/MrCrispybake?feature=mhum

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 1, 2006 12:52 AM

Simon,

I've learned - at least for me - that these reviews end up being a "process in the making" - i.e. they get edited and re-edited, shuffled and reshuffled the first couple of days or so.  I wanted to address the questions that you brought up in your post to the original review, at the same time acknowledging that I had initially forgotten to address those points in the original review.  The strikethrough works rather well at making that point.

Tom

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Posted by canazar on Friday, December 1, 2006 1:39 AM
This is good news.  I have been waiting for the booster for quite some time.  After plkaying with min for awhile, I belive my Power Cab unit is a bit underpowered voltage wise.   I had trouble with top speed and some of my loco lights.   Sounds like this is the what I have been waiting for.

Best Regards, Big John

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Posted by Driline on Friday, December 1, 2006 8:40 AM

Thanks Tom, great review.

Just a note: for programming on the program track, I bought the NCE "Autoswitch" for $24.95 at Tony's Train Exchange and it works GREAT! Heres the link....

http://www.tonystrains.com/technews/nce_aswitch_review.htm

I was wondering though, with the  new smart booster, are you able to utilize that cool function on the Power Cab  as with the PRO CAB that allows you to switch directions with the thumbwheel for switchers so you don't have to use the direction switch? Or maybe thats just an added function of the PRO CAB. I'm guessing it must be,as you can also toggle between many different locos instead of just 2 that the Power Cab allows you.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 1, 2006 10:26 AM

 Driline wrote:
I was wondering though, with the  new smart booster, are you able to utilize that cool function on the Power Cab  as with the PRO CAB that allows you to switch directions with the thumbwheel for switchers so you don't have to use the direction switch?

Frank,

Are you referring to the "Yard mode" feature - where if you rotate the thumbwheel CCW you go forward; and CW, backward?  If so, yes, you do have that capability on the Power Cab - even without the Smart BoosterYou can also use the gross and fine speed buttons, too. CORRECTION: but ONLY when used in conjunction with the Smart Booster.  The speed buttons will NOT work in Yard mode.

Yea, that's a pretty cool feature.  I have my CAB-04p throttle set up for that with just a push of the OPTION button.  However, since that throttle has the "big knob" to control speed, you have to be VERY careful when entering Yard mode.

 

In "Regular" mode, the knob is at "0" when rotated CCW all the way to the left, like it is pictured above.  BEFORE you enter Yard mode, you must rotate the knob to the new "0" position (i.e. 12 o' clock or straight up) BEFORE pressing the "1", which puts you in Yard mode.  If you forget, and the knob is in the "old 0" position, your switcher thinks you want full throttle and will start out lickity slit in reverse.

I've done that a couple of time inadvertently, but was able to thwart off disaster quickly with that wonderful red emergency STOP button.  (Boy!  Am I sure glad those are on throttles. Approve [^])

Frank, from what I understand, the Power Cab has all the capabilities of the Pro Cab, EXCEPT the ability to recall more than 2 locomotives in the recall stack.  (You can only toggle between 2 locomotives using the Power Cab RECALL button; instead of 6, as you do with the Pro Cab throttle.)  However, if you use the Power Cab with the Powerhouse Pro Command station, the Power Cab automatically reverts into a Pro Cab, and the recall stack increases from 2 locomotives to 6.

It's too bad that NCE couldn't have included that with the Power Cab OS upgrade that comes with the new Smart Booster.  (V. 1.1 to 1.28)  That would have been a very nice feature to have. Smile [:)]

Frank, thanks for providing that link of the NCE Auto Switch.  That looks like it would be a nice investment - especially since it toggles between the mainline and programming tracks, without shutting down power to the mainline.

The diagram shows it being used with the PCP (powered) panel.  I'm assuming that since the Smart Booster is alluded to in Tony's article, wiring the track from the Smart Booster instead of the Power Cab into an unpowered (or "de-powered") PCP or UTP panel will yield the same effect.

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 1, 2006 11:05 AM
 tstage wrote:

Simon,

I've learned - at least for me - that these reviews end up being a "process in the making" - i.e. they get edited and re-edited, shuffled and reshuffled the first couple of days or so.  I wanted to address the questions that you brought up in your post to the original review, at the same time acknowledging that I had initially forgotten to address those points in the original review.  The strikethrough works rather well at making that point.

Tom

Simon,

It looks like the strikethrough king has struck again. Dunce [D)]  Please read my correction to your first post.

Tom

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Posted by Driline on Friday, December 1, 2006 6:15 PM

Tom, How do you set the Powercab for "Yard Mode"? I assume yard mode works with the thumbwheel only. That would really be handy for me. I thought the "Yard Mode" only worked with the NCE PRO cab.

 

Frank.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 1, 2006 10:10 PM
 Driline wrote:

Tom, How do you set the Powercab for "Yard Mode"? I assume yard mode works with the thumbwheel only. That would really be handy for me. I thought the "Yard Mode" only worked with the NCE PRO cab.

Frank.

Frank,

Thanks for the question because it helped me to discover something new! Smile [:)]Thumbs Up [tup]  I have also corrected some of my earlier statements that were in error.

Yes, you are correct.  "Yard mode" only works with a thumbwheel (encoder).  But it also works with a potentiometer (knob).  The Pro Cab and CAB-04p throttles have this feature.  The Power Cab does not...UNTIL...you hook it up to the Smart Booster.

To access Yard mode:

  1. Unplug the Power Cab from the UTP panel.
  2. With the SELECT LOCO button held down, plug the Power Cab back into the UTP panel.  (You are now in the Power Cab's internal setup program.)
  3. Press ENTER
  4. Press "1" for Yard mode
  5. Press PROG/ESC to exit.  (You are now in Yard mode.)

To change throttle back to "Normal" mode:

  1. Repeat Steps 1, 2, and 3
  2. Press "2" for Normal mode
  3. Press PROG/ESC to exit.  (You are now back in Normal mode.)

The nice thing about being able to use Yard mode with the Power Cab is the fact that you can see both the direction and speed steps of the locomotive.  With the CAB-04p throttle, you do not have the advantage of the LCD screen.

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 1, 2006 10:33 PM

Bummer!  After discovering that the Power Cab (when used in conjunction with the Smart Booster) was now able to operate locomotives in Yard mode - just like it's cousin, the Pro Cab, I took the chance to see if maybe NCE also increased the recall stack of the Power Cab from 2 locomotives to 6.  Nope. Sad [:(]

And too bad.  As I stated before, that would have made for another nice addition to the OS upgrade.  Oh, well...

Tom

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, December 2, 2006 8:32 AM

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

 

                                  --Randy
 


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Posted by Driline on Saturday, December 2, 2006 9:46 AM
 rrinker wrote:

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

 

                                  --Randy
 

I don't quite understand the difference between the 04P and 04E??? 

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Posted by Driline on Saturday, December 2, 2006 9:50 AM
 tstage wrote:

Bummer!  After discovering that the Power Cab (when used in conjunction with the Smart Booster) was now able to operate locomotives in Yard mode - just like it's cousin, the Pro Cab, I took the chance to see if maybe NCE also increased the recall stack of the Power Cab from 2 locomotives to 6.  Nope. Sad [:(]

And too bad.  As I stated before, that would have made for another nice addition to the OS upgrade.  Oh, well...

Tom

Tom thanks for the updated info. Geesh, I'm going to need a wall mounted cabinet just to hold all those electronic circuit boards and crap NCE keeps coming out withBig Smile [:D]

I've already got the following items:

1) UTP panel (got to have that)

2) NCE Autoswitch

3) Tonys PS1 circuit breaker

4) Tonys Reverser

And now I'll have to invest in the new Power booster! Cause I just have to have itTongue [:P]

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:16 AM

Frank,

As with any potentiometer, the -04p has a left and right rotational stop.  (Usually 7 o'clock and 5 o'clock, respectively.)  With the -04e, the potentiometer is really an encoder.  So, like the thumbwheel on the Pro Cab and Power Cab, it doesn't have any stops and can continue to rotate ad infinitum.

And, as you already know, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have built in limits.  Otherwise, our trains would eventually reach light speed. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:22 AM
 rrinker wrote:

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

                                  --Randy
 

You're right, Randy.  For that one particular reason, I wish I had bought the -04e instead of the -04p.  Even so, the stops are nice when using the -04p in Normal mode.

Tom

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Posted by Driline on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:35 AM
I'm going to get the "E" version then. Its a little more expensive, but I can use it in the interim before I buy the power booster.
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Posted by Driline on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:41 AM
 tstage wrote:
 rrinker wrote:

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

                                  --Randy
 

You're right, Randy.  For that one particular reason, I wish I had bought the -04e instead of the -04p.  Even so, the stops are nice when using the -04p in Normal mode.

Tom

Actually Tom, for just an extra 25 dollars I could buy the "Pro Cab" controller. But I don't know if that would include "Yard Mode" without actually buying the "smart booster". The Cab-04E is $97.95. and DOES have the "Yard Mode" function. This is really getting confusing.Question [?]

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:43 AM

 Driline wrote:
I'm going to get the "E" version then. Its a little more expensive, but I can use it in the interim before I buy the power booster.

Frank,

From an economics standpoint, the Smart Booster (discounted) will be cheaper than buying the CAB-04e throttle - unless you are wanting the extra throttle for your layout...

Tom

[Edit: Wow, Frank! Shock [:O] You beat me to the punch on my response.)

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:51 AM
 Driline wrote:
 tstage wrote:
 rrinker wrote:

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

                                  --Randy
 

You're right, Randy.  For that one particular reason, I wish I had bought the -04e instead of the -04p.  Even so, the stops are nice when using the -04p in Normal mode.

Tom

Actually Tom, for just an extra 25 dollars I could buy the "Pro Cab" controller. But I don't know if that would include "Yard Mode" without actually buying the "smart booster". The Cab-04E is $97.95. and DOES have the "Yard Mode" function. This is really getting confusing.Question [?]

Frank, 

Yea, that's a dilemma.  If you are wanting the extra throttle, the CAB-04e would be the least expensive way to go to get the Yard mode feature.  Otherwise, you would need BOTH the Smart Booster AND Pro Cab (or Power Cab) to have that.

Tom 

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Posted by Sagelake on Saturday, December 2, 2006 2:51 PM

Hello All,

I'm very excited cause I got my SB-3 too, but I'm confused about using the auto switch. I think it was said in the first post that you can NOT access programming mode from the SB-3, if this is the case, and I'm not using the PCP panel to power the main track anymore, then the only use for the PCP IS to power the program track? As I said, I'm confused so any clearity would be appriciated. Thanks in advance for any help,

Chuck

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Posted by spidge on Saturday, December 2, 2006 5:21 PM
 Sagelake wrote:

Hello All,

I'm very excited cause I got my SB-3 too, but I'm confused about using the auto switch. I think it was said in the first post that you can NOT access programming mode from the SB-3, if this is the case, and I'm not using the PCP panel to power the main track anymore, then the only use for the PCP IS to power the program track? As I said, I'm confused so any clearity would be appriciated. Thanks in advance for any help,

Chuck

Hi Tom, I have the same question as to how to incorporate the original panel into the system. I have two of the expansion panels but I don't see how to use this one. I would like to keep it operable.

I did receive my SB3 and power source but haven't had a chance to commit to it yet.

John

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Posted by Driline on Saturday, December 2, 2006 6:25 PM
 tstage wrote:
 Driline wrote:
 tstage wrote:
 rrinker wrote:

 Using yard mode is where the Cab-04e would come in handy. Since it has an encoder knob there's no issue with setting the zero point, it would function just like the ProCab except it's a knob not a thumbwheel.

                                  --Randy
 

You're right, Randy.  For that one particular reason, I wish I had bought the -04e instead of the -04p.  Even so, the stops are nice when using the -04p in Normal mode.

Tom

Actually Tom, for just an extra 25 dollars I could buy the "Pro Cab" controller. But I don't know if that would include "Yard Mode" without actually buying the "smart booster". The Cab-04E is $97.95. and DOES have the "Yard Mode" function. This is really getting confusing.Question [?]

Frank, 

Yea, that's a dilemma.  If you are wanting the extra throttle, the CAB-04e would be the least expensive way to go to get the Yard mode feature.  Otherwise, you would need BOTH the Smart Booster AND Pro Cab (or Power Cab) to have that.

Tom 

Hmmmmmm. I'll have to think about it. I really don't think I'll need the smart booster, as I'll only ever be running 2 trains at the same time with 2 different throttles. I will however be using several SOUND equipped locomotives on my layout. I am assuming that 1.7A will be sufficient to run 2 sound loco's at the same time. If not I guess I really would need to invest in a smart booster.

Sigh [sigh]

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Posted by jim22 on Saturday, December 2, 2006 8:03 PM

Tom,

  I was just looking for a short-circuit trip delay setting on my PowerCab, which I didn't find, but I did find an option for Yard mode, and it almost works.  When I selected Yard Mode, the thumbwheel did control the direction and speed, but the speed was much slower than normal mode, and the wheel seemed to work backwards.  Rotating the wheel "up" made the engine accellorate in reverse. 

   The reason I was looking for short-circuit trip delay was that I have not seen any benefit to an 1156 automotive lamp in series with my PowerCab.  The PowerCab trips before the bulb turns on.  If I apply a soft short - about 6 ohms - then the bulb will glow.  Once the bulb is glowing, I can apply a hard short and it glows brightly while the PowerCab stays on.

Jim 

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, December 3, 2006 12:26 AM
 spidge wrote:
 Sagelake wrote:

Hello All,

I'm very excited cause I got my SB-3 too, but I'm confused about using the auto switch. I think it was said in the first post that you can NOT access programming mode from the SB-3, if this is the case, and I'm not using the PCP panel to power the main track anymore, then the only use for the PCP IS to power the program track? As I said, I'm confused so any clearity would be appriciated. Thanks in advance for any help,

Chuck

Hi Tom, I have the same question as to how to incorporate the original panel into the system. I have two of the expansion panels but I don't see how to use this one. I would like to keep it operable.

I did receive my SB3 and power source but haven't had a chance to commit to it yet.

Chuck & John,

I see that we're all on the same page because I've actually been contemplating the very same thing myself today.  After some digging, here's what I was able to find on Tony's Train Exchange web site on the Auto Switch:


The Auto Switch
(From http://www.tonystrains.com/technews/nce_aswitch_review.htm)

The Auto Switch is contained on a small printed circuit board with an input from the Power Cab and separate outputs for the main line and programming track. The solid-state electronics on the Auto Switch control a relay that turns off the main line output whenever it is in the programming track mode. This prevents sending out program commands to the main line. The program-on-the-main mode does not turn off the main line.


From Tony's diagram and description above, the Auto Switch is an interface between the PCP panel and the mainline and track feeds ONLY.  If that being the case, then in all likelihood the Auto Switch will NOT work with the SB3 hooked up to the layout.

At one point last night, I inadvertently had both the SB3 and PCP panel powering the layout at the same time and the SB3 overrode the smaller PCP wall transformer.  I now have the PCP panel completely isolated from the layout and will hook up my separate programming track to it when I need to program.

I'm thinking that it might be a good thing to confirm this with Larry Larson @ NCE.  I'll let you know what I find out.

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, December 3, 2006 1:03 AM
 jim22 wrote:

Tom,

  I was just looking for a short-circuit trip delay setting on my PowerCab, which I didn't find, but I did find an option for Yard mode, and it almost works.  When I selected Yard Mode, the thumbwheel did control the direction and speed, but the speed was much slower than normal mode, and the wheel seemed to work backwards.  Rotating the wheel "up" made the engine accellorate in reverse. 

   The reason I was looking for short-circuit trip delay was that I have not seen any benefit to an 1156 automotive lamp in series with my PowerCab.  The PowerCab trips before the bulb turns on.  If I apply a soft short - about 6 ohms - then the bulb will glow.  Once the bulb is glowing, I can apply a hard short and it glows brightly while the PowerCab stays on.

Jim

Jim,

On the Yard mode feature, the NCE Power Cab manual states on pg. 18, point 5 that "Yard mode only works in Pro Cab."  I'm not sure exactly why you are experiencing what you are.  I'll have to try that out tomorrow on my Power Cab hooked up to my programming track to see what happens.

NCE has the #1156 automotive lamp short circuit detection diagram on pg. 2 of the Smart Booster manual.  Since the Smart Booster is a 3-amp system, this would give reason why it works with that size lamp and probably why it doesn't with the 1.7-amp Power Cab by itself.

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, December 3, 2006 6:20 AM
 tstage wrote:
 jim22 wrote:

Tom,

  I was just looking for a short-circuit trip delay setting on my PowerCab, which I didn't find, but I did find an option for Yard mode, and it almost works.  When I selected Yard Mode, the thumbwheel did control the direction and speed, but the speed was much slower than normal mode, and the wheel seemed to work backwards.  Rotating the wheel "up" made the engine accellorate in reverse.

Jim

Jim,

On the Yard mode feature, the NCE Power Cab manual states on pg. 18, point 5 that "Yard mode only works in Pro Cab."  I'm not sure exactly why you are experiencing what you are.  I'll have to try that out tomorrow on my Power Cab hooked up to my programming track to see what happens.

Tom

Well, Jim.  Guess what I discovered last night after not being able to fall asleep?  I got up, did a little experimentation with my Power Cab, and found out two things:

  1. Despite what the Power Cab manual states on pg. 18, my Power Cab works in Yard mode...WITHOUT it being hooked up to the Smart Booster. Confused [%-)]
  2. The "rotating the wheel 'up' made the engine accellorate in reverse" issue that you experienced was rectified on my separate programming track by:
  • Returning the Power Cab to Normal mode
  • Reversing the track wires around, then
  • Putting the Power Cab in Yard mode again

I tried this a couple of times.  Each time it reversed which direction the locomotive went in when rotating the thumbwheel "up".

Looks like I'll have to ask Larry @ NCE about point 1... 

Tom

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, December 3, 2006 8:09 AM

Chuck, John, and Jim, 

I e-mailed Larry Larson @ NCE this morning and asked him about both the Yard mode "anomoly" with the Power Cab and if you can use the Auto Switch with the Smart Booster setup.  I'll let you know what Larry has to say on the matters as soon as I get word.

Tom 

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